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Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Winter proves long, bitter - and very costly

By Shelley Grieshop

A Mercer County salt bin is less than half full following a harsh winter in the. . .

Costs rose as quickly as salt supplies plunged this winter.
Officials in Mercer and Auglaize counties report expenditures for snow and ice removal are double and triple from last year.
Auglaize County crews this year more than doubled the amount of overtime hours clocked by road crews in 2012-2013. Statistics show 2,712 overtime hours worked this year and 1,265 the year before.
Gary Kuck, chief deputy for the Auglaize County engineer's office, said 1,600 of the overtime hours occurred during weekends when most snowstorms struck.
"I tracked it all winter ... Saturday and Sunday, Saturday and Sunday ... it just seemed to fall that way all winter," he said. "But everything went well."
The Celina area documented more than 60 inches of snow this winter, about twice the region's average. Local weather forecaster Dennis Howick also counted nearly 30 frigid days when the temperature fell to zero or below; the average is four days.
Auglaize County's cost to battle this year's wintry conditions was $344,942, including $88,333 spent on fuel. Last year's total was $172,704 without fuel expenses, which weren't immediately available.
The county this year used 1,836 tons of salt, compared to 1,130 tons the previous winter. Snowplows this winter were dispatched 46 days compared to 36 days a year ago.
The extra expenses will short-change engineering budgets in Mercer and Auglaize counties, which receive revenues from gasoline taxes, license fees and grants. That means less road paving this year in both regions, officials said.
"We'll live with what we got," said Kuck, adding it currently costs about $70,000 to pave one mile of roadway.
Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart said the harsh wintry conditions nearly doubled his equipment, labor and material costs. This year's expenses were $486,873, compared to $244,150 last year.
  Wiechart said the back-to-back winter storms took their toll in many ways.
"The rough winter is harder on the equipment and the roads, and (it will be) sad to see less being done in construction season as a result," he said.
Mercer County crews in 2013-2014 hit the road 62 days for snow and ice control, versus 27 days last year. A total of 3,337 tons of salt and grit were used this year - almost triple the 1,159 tons used the previous year.
Overtime hours tallied 1,873, up from 823 hours last winter, Wiechart said. Regular hours more than doubled at 3,049.
The average cost this winter to keep all 384 miles of Mercer County roadways snow and ice free was $1,267 per mile - the highest in the last six years.
The lowest cost was $264 per mile during the 2011-2012 winter season.
Kuck and Wiechart happily welcomed the arrival of spring a week ago.
"Our guys were great this winter but they're ready to get out of their trucks," Kuck said.
Additional online story on this date
CELINA - Jim Highley, host of WCSM Radio's weekly "Country Leisure" show, will sign off for the last time Sunday night, ending a 33-year run.
The show debuted April 1, 1981, after a discussion with station owner John Coe. [More]
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